Europe | United Kingdom (UK), Great Britain | England | London – The Waltz of the Mechanical Cleaners
Travelling between the continent and Scotland is an expensive business. ‘Cheap charter flights direct from a Scottish airport can be twice the price of a similar flight from a London Airport. The solution is to use a budget airline and take advantage of the cheap fares from the London hubs or when going home fly into London and use the budget boys to make the last hop. They are even cheaper than a coach if you book a few weeks in advance.
Taking my own advice we booked a flight on Go from Naples to Stansted and then another from Stansted to Edinburgh. At the end of July we judged 70 euros from Italy to UK was reasonable and ?15 from Stansted to Edinburgh even better. Problem was the first flight arrived in Stansted at 12.30am and the second departed at 6.0am. No problem for intrepid island-strollers, six hours to wait, a few beers, a warm meal, a good book and a cosy corner, Nae Bovver at a’!
We should be grateful that the flight was an hour late leaving Naples because that used the first hour and the pizza in Naples Airport was not bad at all. The huge cups of carbonated drink were also quite acceptable, even in price. The bar, well its an airport, need I say more. The toilets were excellent.
Only one thing I remember from that flight. Remember the clever tip about grabbing the seats by the emergency exit for the extra legroom? Well I tried but no way; the airlines want a premium for them. As usual, like sensible travellers we let everyone troop onboard, watched them queue for ages while we carried on reading. We were in row three and last to board. Why we wondered were all the front row seats empty?
There was a more experienced traveller one row in front, as soon as the door closed he moved and bagged one. I made the mistake of asking and nearly had a refusal but after consultation the steward agreed to us moving. Did you know that the backs of the emergency row seats are fixed, non-reclining? I do now!
Collecting luggage at Stansted was the usual joy and by the time we made our first serious mistake it was two am. That mistake, oh yes, experienced airport sleepers will already know that the arrivals area is always quiet. Everyone heads out of it as fast as they can and being herd animals we did too. Straight for the maelstrom of the departure lounge.
The last flight of the night has gone, the shops almost all closed (those that weren’t were about to), not a check-in desk in operation. Airport staff thin on the ground. Ground, how could I mention ground, it was invisible, covered everywhere with shapeless mounds of clothing, sleeping bags, comatose bodies. This was no departure lounge it was a WW11 bomb shelter, a Sally-Ann hostel, the backbenches during a filibuster but definitely not an airport closed for the night.
Never daunted we went in search of sustenance. Beer first, then food, get the priorities right. Trouble is we’re back in good old Nanny Britain where they tell you when you may consume alcohol – all the bars were closed. Ok, we can abstain with the best of them, lead us to the food. Our second mistake. Two am and we want to eat, silly, its Britain. But, be fair there was one place. It shall remain nameless. A chicken curry and a baked potato with avocado, chicken and bacon (so salty Alison couldn’t finish it) and a couple of glasses of orange juice – roughly ?15. We knew we were home.
Then the cleaners started. Alison managed to drop off, regularly, even sitting upright with a book in her hand. I watched the rich panoply of airport nightlife unfold around me. That is I watched the waltz of the mechanical cleaners, although what they found to clean while avoiding sleeping forms, beat me. Desperation set in, another pint of orange juice, ouch, three quid! Finished my book, I even remember bits of it. Wandered of to find the loos, gave up and settled down again.
Brainwave. Time to let our son know we are on our way home. Its after four he’s sure to be back from the club by now. Dig deep; search through the backpack and at last, my mobile. Did you know a mobile won’t hold a charge for two months, you’d think they’d have decent batteries. How to find power.
Dig deep again, even deeper. Success, the charger. Now, just one problem, where to plug it in? The manager of the all night diner was a star. No hesitation, just plug it in over here he said, behind the bar. An hour and I had a mobile phone, Five am, can I call him now, yup, time to get my own back for all the times I’ve been woken from a sound sleep.
You’ve guessed, haven’t you – he had it switched off. Never mind, things are happening, the place is wakening, desks opening, its morning. Well, morning Stansted style, three-quarters of the floor sleepers are still asleep but now in danger of decapitation by trolleys driven by early morning passengers. I wonder what time they rose to be here at five-thirty?
Alison wakes, morning already, time for the last leg, or so we think but that’s